This article is from the archive of our partner .

North Korea's latest show of nuclear might has many conservatives fuming over the Obama administration's supposed weakness on nuclear proliferation. But what exactly do they expect the President to do?

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which North Korea's longstanding nuclear program could be stopped. But those critical of the President's foreign policy apparently think it can be stopped — and that Obama is capitulating to Kim Jong-un's brinksmanship: 

N. Korea's leadership is crazy, but it isn't stupid. They know a little nuclear blackmail will give they a major payoff from obama/kerry.

— John C. Pechette (@heatpacker) February 12, 2013

Newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry is also getting hounded over the test: 

Will #Obama and #Kerry pursue same failed strategies to deal with North Korea as in the past? @aeifdp

— AEI Foreign Policy (@AEIfdp) February 12, 2013

The President is trying to look tough going into tonight's State of the Union, promising to "take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies" in light of North Korea's test. White House aides confirm that he'll condemn the tests in his address. But beyond pushing for harsher international sanctions against North Korea (good luck convincing Beijing to actually enforce them), what can Obama credibly do to halt their nuclear weapons program? Short of going nuclear himself, the President has little recourse in preventing a rogue state uninterested in maintaining amiable foreign relations from building a nuclear arsenal. Foreign Policy's managing editor Blake Hounshell put the conservative meme to the test with this level-headed question: 

As it turns out, the argument that liberal wussies are to blame for North Korea's nukes crumbles when you point out — as Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski did to Romney's former national security spokesman Richard Grenell — that these tests also happened under George W. Bush's watch: 

Despite the flack he's getting (and will continue to get), the President is expected to stay committed to his existing nonproliferation strategy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor tells The Atlantic's Michael Hirsh that today's test "wasn't a surprise," and won't change Obama's nuclear weapons policies.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to